European Western Balkans

Stoltenberg: Kosovo and Serbia to reduce tensions

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić; Photo: FoNet

BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Wednesday evening. After the meeting, Stoltenberg emphasized the importance of reducing tensions in Kosovo and called on both sides to refrain from actions and rhetoric that escalate the situation.

“We believe that the dialogue should be restarted under the auspices of the European Union. Serbia is a longstanding partner of NATO, and we hope it will engage in the dialogue in a constructive manner,” said Stoltenberg, as reported by FoNet.

He reminded that NATO’s mission in Kosovo – KFOR, has increased its presence due to heightened tensions in the north. He added that KFOR will continue to maintain peace in line with its mandate.

Stoltenberg labeled the attacks on KFOR soldiers in Zvečan at the end of May as unacceptable.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called on KFOR to ensure security for Serbs in Kosovo. He expressed concern about the developments in the north, stating, “This is becoming more of a security issue than just a political one,” said the Serbian President.

“We have had very professional and good cooperation with NATO and the KFOR mission so far, and I hope it will remain that way. I kindly ask KFOR to ensure safety and security for all Serbs in Kosovo,” Vučić added.

He emphasized that “everything that happened was due to the irresponsible approach of the authorities in Pristina,” adding that there has been no serious investigation into the wounded and injured Serbs.

The meeting between Vučić and Stoltenberg took place on the day when a new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was held in Brussels at the negotiator level, convened by the EU Special Envoy Miroslav Lajčak. Vučić also met with Lajčak in Brussels, and after the meeting, he stated that Serbia “continues to insist on concrete steps to protect the lives of Serbs,” as well as on the implementation of the agreements reached so far.

On July 11, the European Union confirmed that Kosovo agreed to reduce the presence of police in and around municipal buildings in Zvečan, Leposavić, and Zubin Potok in northern Kosovo.

It was also agreed to further reduce police forces in these municipalities with a Serbian majority, with regular assessments of the security situation in cooperation with EULEX and KFOR missions, as well as preparations for holding local elections. The Kosovo Government stated at the time that “all steps would be completed within two weeks,” and police presence would be reduced by 25 percent.”

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